BREATHING, YOGA & MEDITATION
It seems that in our modern world, stress is unavoidable however there are many simple techniques available to you that can help you become more stress resilient. Breathing and breath-based activities are one of these techniques, having the power to flip your nervous system from ‘flight and fight’ to ‘rest and repair’ in a very short space of time.
The breath is a connection between the conscious and unconscious mind.
It is one of the few things we can consciously control if we choose but otherwise it is a process that the unconscious mind will control without effort or even awareness on our part. This makes the breath unique; you cannot consciously control many other body systems that are normally the domain of the unconscious mind. It is this duality that enables the breath to become a bridge between these two mental states.
Over the next few weeks, I will show you how to use yoga and meditation to reduce stress levels in your life.
Stress affects our breathing. When we are stressed our body’s response is to breathe in a rapid, shallow manner, providing a good supply of oxygen to the muscles and brain for our potential ‘flight or fight’. On the other hand, when we are in a relaxed state our breathing calms, becoming slower and deeper.
Our body associates a rapid, shallow breath with stress and a slow, deep breath with relaxation so therefore by consciously lengthening and deepening our breath we can fool our bodies into thinking we’re not stressed.
It is such a simple technique that requires no more than committing some time everyday to taking 10 to 20 deep, slow breaths. In Bestow we encourage our clients to do this while they soak their skin as part of their skin care regime. The modern, busy women loves nothing more than multi-tasking so this works very well. I have heard of other people linking it in to other routine occurrences like waiting for the jug to boil or sitting at the lights.
If you want to take the art of breathing a step further, try Pranayama. Pranayama is an ancient form of breathing exercise designed to calm the mind and strengthen your ability to concentrate. It also great for our health and is believed to purify the nerve channels and the blood and strengthen the lungs and respiratory system. It also massages and tones the abdominal muscles which is an added benefit. Regular practice is said to reverse the aging process and help maintain us in optimal health.
I find 20 minutes of Pranayama is enough to centre you and is a wonderful way to start the day. If you are interested in learning how to do it there are lots of instructional videos on YouTube.
Meditation is the ultimate in stress control but often difficult for our Western minds to cope with. A wise yogi once told me that in order to meditate you must first master the ability to sit cross-legged for at least half an hour, then learn to control the breath with Pranayama and only then are you ready to meditate.
So my recommendation would be to start with some deep breathing, making time each day to practice this simple technique, and then see where this takes you. Harnessing the power of breathing is an amazing way to de stress, however there are other ways to ensure we aren’t letting stress back in to our lives unconsciously, which will be talked about in the next blog post.